A task force begins meeting today to discuss the amount of time Iowa students spend in the classroom and whether there should be an increase. The “Instructional Time Task Force” is part of the education reform package the legislature passed and the governor signed into law.

Mike Cormack with the Department of Education says the cost of extending the school year will be under discussion. “That’s going to be up to the group to decide, but studies tend to show between 12 to 15 million dollars per day of additional instruction is the cost. So if you add ten days, you’re already looking at a 150-million-dollar program,” Cormack says.

Cormack says some research shows that the biggest bang for the buck comes from adding instructional time only for struggling students.

“States that have done that have had positive results in doing so,” according to Cormack. “But we are going to bring in experts with a lot of different opinions, and we welcome a lot of different viewpoints.”

The Instructional Time Task Force includes experts from inside and outside education, and will make recommendations to next year’s legislature, including the contentious issue of school start dates. The legislature has been sharply divided in the past on whether schools are starting classes too early in August.